While not quite champagne sailing, the last 24 hours have been very pleasant and have finally seen some decent miles knocked off the Distance To Go number on the GPS. We had 10 - 12 knot S/E wind for most of the day yesterday, so it was a nice change to see that our heading was actually pointing directly where we wanted to go.
Spent most of the day under the A1 Gennaker, and this meant we could reel off some easy miles. It also stopped raining, so the entire boat got a chance to dry out, which raised spirits on board even more. The breeze held out all day, and we were happy to see that we'd gained a bottle of rum back off Squealer by that evening's sched. They were still ahead, in terms of distance to the finish, but we had some nice leaverage to leeward of them, which we were hoping to be able to cash in later.
We had nice breeze through the night, but started lightening off early this morning, eventually to the point where we were drifting almost becalmed again by around 0200. We feared we were going to lose more miles, like we had the night before, but fortunately the light patch lasted less than an hour and we were soon underway again, making miles directly towards the finish, albeit nearly 500 miles away still.
Throughout the night we made several sail changes, from the A1 Gennaker to Code Zero and back again, depending on the amount of wind and direction. This mornings position sched was eagerly anticipated and the good news was that we'd taken more miles off Squealer overnight, and were less than a bottle of rum behind them, but we were going faster and closing distance by the minute. Game on!
Time for another sail change, and then we got a position report about an hour ago, via satellite that said we officially had less miles to the finish than Squealer. There may have been a few little fist pumps upon hearing that one!! We celebrated with another round of hot chocolates. Doubles this time. Our new trick is to put one of those mini Pinky Bars in there, so the chocolate melts and you're left with the gooey marshmellow at the bottom. Another trick is to put Vanilla Up & Go in your morning coffee, when the milk goes dodgy. Small things....
Anyway, back to the race. The wind picked up about half an hour ago, so we changed again to the A2 Runner - the biggest sail we've got on board. As I write this, the crew on deck just started shouting & hollering, claiming a new speed record. I poked my head out of the hatch and told them to pipe down, there are people trying to sleep down here. Bloody kids. No one seems to be paying me any attention.
We charted Squealer's latest position and it looks like they're around 8 miles almost directly abeam, to windward of us, to it really is Game On and will likely be a 400 mile Match Race from here to the finish. The weather is overcast and drizzly rain at the moment, so visibility is not good. However I can sense them just out of sight over the windward horizon and can smell the fear on their breath. For those of you who haven't seen the race tracker yet, you can find it at anzsailfiji.co.nz So go & check it out, log in to the trackers, find Django and Squealer, no one else matters. Sit back and enjoy the show kids, I have a feeling it could be a belter.
By Andy Pilcher